Plenty of coverage around today of the Independent’s story about Miliband’s plans to “sever big money ties with unions”. I predicted a week ago that the Labour leader was planning a symbolic gesture to show that he was not in hoc to the union barons; perhaps this is it?
Yet the reaction to the Indie story has got ahead of itself in terms of what it all means.
Firstly, Labour has today denied point blank the claim that Miliband wants to give 25 per cent of votes in future leadership elections to members of the public – thus reducing the union vote from 33 per cent to 25 per cent. I’m told this is just an idea in the ether and not one that Ed M backs.
Secondly, reducing a donation cap to £500 sounds radical. It sould stop unions making big one-off donations to fund election campaigns. But under Miliband’s suggestion – put forward to the committee on standards in public life – unions would still every year give millions of pounds in aggregate from millions of members each paying £500. Labour would not bow to Tory demands for an “opt in” rather than an “opt out” clause on the unions’ political funds.
Meanwhile under a £500 cap the Tories would see a massive slump in funding given that currently their donations tend to be in the thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands from individual backers. For that reason they are likely to argue for a higher cap – which Miliband may then reject.
While taking the credit for the seemingly ultra-democratic £500 cap idea.
Party funding talks under Sir Hayden Phillips foundered in 2007 for precisely these reasons; don’t expect an imminent solution. (The obvious one, greater party funding – which Sir Hayden himself backs – remains unpalatable to the public).